Thursday, February 4, 2010

AVWEEK: ArcLight for Hypersonic Strike

By Graham Warwick:

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is seeking funding in Fiscal 2011 for ArcLight, a program to flight-test a long-range, high-speed strike weapon based on the Raytheon SM-3 ballistic-missile interceptor.

ArcLight will be based on an SM-3 Block II booster stack and a hypersonic glider, and designed to carry a 100-200 pound payload more than 2,000 nautical miles. The weapon will be compatible with the Mark 41 vertical launch system and capable of launch from U.S. Navy warships and submarines as well as Air Force assets.

The program is getting under way in Fiscal 2010 with $2 million in funding to conduct feasibility testing of new materials. The $5 million sought in 2011 would cover testing of key technologies and begin concept development.

Darpa is seeking a total budget of $3.1 billion in Fiscal 2011, up from $2.99 billion in 2010. This includes $303 million for advanced aerospace systems, such as ArcLight, an increase from the $258 million provided in 2010.

Funding sought includes $67.6 million for the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program, to cover wind tunnel, propulsion and seeker testing and begin building flight-test vehicles. Lockheed Martin has contracts to study two LRASM concepts: one high, fast and ramjet-powered; one low, slow and highly stealthy.

Darpa is a seeking $60 million in 2011 to flight-test a subscale demonstrator for the Vulture extreme-endurance solar-powered stratospheric unmanned surveillance aircraft, and $43.4 million to begin building a subscale demonstrator for the Isis radar-carrying unmanned stratospheric airship.

Another $35 million is sought for the Mode Transition program to fund the ground-test of a turbojet/scramjet turbine-based combined-cycle engine to power a hypersonic aircraft or air-breathing launch vehicle.

New programs planned to start in 2011 include Responsive, Reliable Access to Space, with $7 million sought to develop reusable vehicle concepts, “which may include leveraging of commercial sector investments,” Darpa says.

Another planned new program is Counter-Unmanned Air Vehicles (C-UAV), with $5.1 million sought in 2011 to assess current threats and viable approaches to detecting small, slow, low-altitude UAVs.

Darpa is seeking funding increases in Fiscal 2011 for several programs, including $12.1 million to initiate design of the roadworthy vertical-takeoff-and-landing Transformer Vehicle; $11.8 million to begin design of the Mission Adaptive Rotor demonstrator; and $1.3 million for flight-tests to investigate the drag-reduction benefits of formation flight.

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